Thursday, October 18, 2007

Justifying the ungodly

God, according to Romans 4:5, "justifies the ungodly". There are, as always, many ways this phrase could be read depending on how the key words are interpreted.

The most common Protestant reading would be to take justifies in a legal sense and ungodly in a moral sense, resulting in a reading that God "declares righteous the immoral". Catholics however would generally read both words in a moral sense, resulting in a reading where God "makes the immoral righteous".

New Perspective scholars however seem to almost universally agree that the phrases "Gentile sinners" and "ungodly Gentiles" are proverbial phrases within Judaism of this time. Therefore the term "sinner" or "ungodly" can and does often simply mean "Gentile" or "person who doesn't follow the Mosaic Law", rather than indicating an immoral or wicked person. It has an ethnic/legal meaning rather than moral meaning.

Thus the NPP reading is that God "declares righteous those who do not follow the Mosaic Law". This seems to me to be the best reading and agree with the context in which Paul talks about how Abraham was declared righteous by God before he was circumcised.


Blogger Benjamin said...

There is a definite truth to the NP position as you lay it out there. But it seems to me that the NP reading fails to fully appreciate the moral force of the passage and what Paul means when he speaks of the law. The reference to David's Psalm for instance seems to put a moral force into the passage.

The issue is the contrast between "work" and "not work but believe." I feel the key to the contrast is through the more detailed explanation laid out in Romans 7-8 where works are shown to be unfruitful because of the 'lack of the Spirit,' so to speak. In these chapters the moral aspect of the law seems clear to me. But because of something like 'original sin,' which works all the more powerfully through the law, one actually can't obey despite his desire to. This dillema is overcome through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Whipartist from Tweb.

I've been enjoying your blog but haven't left a comment until now.


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